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On-Board Diagnostics Engineering Team Leader - Justin Owen


This article is from the “Cummins: All Access” series, a compilation of unique, reality-based stories featuring Cummins employees. The series is designed to give a behind-the-scenes perspective of Cummins employees as they develop their careers.

On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) is a precision-based technology embedded into Cummins world-class diesel engines.  It’s a digital communication system that provides a real-time snapshot of engine performance to aid service technicians during engine repair.  OBD engineers like Justin Owen manage the engineering teams who develop the technologies inside the innovative, dependable engines our customers have come to expect.
Justin’s project team is responsible for the development of Cummins OBD software for engines sized between 2-liters and 19-liters, including on-highway and off-highway products.  His challenge is thinking way beyond his desk to realize the future of OBD software design — for both diesel and hybrid-compatible engine platforms.
“On-Board Diagnostics is about making a global impact while examining the tradeoffs between certification and robustness.  This is often opposite ends of the spectrum for our team, so we collaborate during the Alpha design phase and search to find a balance.”
And now for your All Access Pass:
Justin’s morning starts early with a weekly one-on-one development meeting with a member of his team. An engineer is providing an update on an issue she discovered during product validation in a Cummins research test cell. They review test cell data to quantify the problem and find a proposed resolution of next steps.  Justin enjoys providing advice to an up-and-coming engineer.
“I always enjoy mentoring my team.  We have great people here and it makes me feel valued when we build success in our team members.  The priority of our meeting this morning is helping her realize how and when our data suggests the components may require service.  It was important for her to leave our one-on-one with a better understanding of the steps in the validation process.”
Next, Justin is off to a technical program review-- a highly confidential meeting with executive directors and team leaders about the launch of a new engine platform.  The product is targeted for international markets and the team reviews progress reports from each team leader on the secret project.  It’s an important launch for Cummins because the national media doesn’t know the launch will happen and it will make a big splash in the consumer automotive industry.
“Our conversation today was about how the design progress is aligning with plan milestones and our engineering objectives.  It can often take unique twists and turns due to the stage of new product development. It’s a lot of fun because we’re often innovating with leadership across all engineering teams in real-time.  We all have very high visibility in this important global project.” 
Justin presents the On-Board Diagnostics system testing data and the cutting-edge technology necessary for exceeding both customer and government standards.
“There’s an exciting nature to what has been accomplished.  We’re really making a global impact, and our best work is yet to come.  My team’s next challenge is to take the revised strategy from the review team and brainstorm on how to test the product during the next phase of our project.”
After the meeting, Justin is off to a networking lunch with the recruiting team to discuss a Society of Automotive Engineers LEGO® Build event taking place soon.  He enjoys giving back to the community via the Young Engineers Club, a group of middle school STEM students. 
“We’re giving back to communities by mentoring students and showing that engineering is exciting because of the social problem-solving. There are few things you can solve in a vacuum in life, and innovative engineering depends on diverse perspectives.  So, we use our LEGO® engine as 'edutainment' - entertainment that is educational."
Justin has a phone conversation after lunch with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and receives feedback on compliance data from several design packages.  The proactive and honest conversation helps build the relationship between Cummins and the government agency to ensure each innovative design protects the environment and meet our customer’s needs.
Mid-afternoon, Justin returns to his desk to put together estimates for next year’s operating budget. This includes all products that Justin’s team currently supports, including team capacity and testing costs. While some estimates are well-defined, others can be challenging to quantify if its research and development related.
“Budget can often be interesting because some projects are highly confidential initiatives.  We’re often working on customer-specific projects that very few people in the company actually know about.  Our goal is to maintain a balanced workload across the team.  That creates the right opportunities for professional growth and leaves flexibility for the development of both the product line and our team.”
Finally, Justin spends time working on an upcoming presentation for an industry conference on Systems Engineering.  The theme of his speech is Diagnostic Algorithm Development and Application Validation, which is an innovative topic for the conference.  He’s both excited – and a little nervous.
“I’m presenting to industry thought leaders and college students by special invitation.  The audience benefits from understanding how systems engineering principles and diagnostics complement one another.  Cummins provides me opportunities to share my expertise with the industry.”
As he’s leaving for the day, Justin is off to a summer engineering intern mixer.  He’s looking forward to meeting students that have a passion for product development and an interest in joining Cummins. 
“I really enjoy the networking conversations with our interns.  They’re intrigued by what they’ve seen and are interested in learning more about roles at Cummins.  We’ve got great opportunities here-- and we need intelligent students to help achieve our growth strategy.”